V-Dem Data Users’ Working Paper Series

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) would like to encourage users downloading the data to submit first versions of papers, for online publication by the V-Dem Institute as “V-Dem Data Users’ Working Paper Series”.


- We think of it as a helpful collective action to gather many papers using V-Dem data in one place for easy access.

- We also think it is a nice way to recognize the service on over 50 people over several years that created this dataset.

Please submit your paper by email to natalia.stepanova@v-dem.net

Template for the Working Paper format could be found here  Working Paper Template.docx (115.1 KB) .


V-Dem does not do quality control and therefore does not endorse the content of the papers, which is the responsibility of the authors only.

V-Dem Users' Working Papers


Autocracies and Human Development

Author: Andrea Cassani

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 22. June 2019

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The idea of a connection between a country’s political institutions and its human development record is not new, but attention has mostly focused on comparing democratic and non-democratic regimes. The possible implications of the institutional differences characterizing the non-democratic universe have remained largely disregarded. Accordingly, this paper examines how different institutional environments could shape the importance that autocrats attach to improving citizens’ living conditions. The discussion suggests that so-called competitive autocracies, which hold elections and allow for some degree of contestation, face stronger pressures to improve citizen living conditions. Based on an updated version of the V-Dem Regimes of the World index that distinguishes competitive from hegemonic-party electoral autocracies and different forms of closed autocracy, and using data on school enrolment and child mortality for the 1971-2015 period, autocracy’s comparative human development performance is analysed. The main finding is that competitive autocracies outperform other non-democratic regimes, with the exception of hereditary regimes.


Mexico: Political Change and Delegative Democracy

Author: Armando Chaguaceda

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 21. June 2019

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The scenario resulting from the 1 July 2018 presidential election is configuring in Mexico a delegative democracy with wide support for incumbant, rapid growth of hegemonic power and uncertain consequences for the nation’s sociopolitical life. 


Electoral Systems and Income Inequality: A Tale of Political Equality

Author: Izaskun Zuazu

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 20. November 2018

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Political economy literature has so far failed to offer a consensus on the effect of political institutions such as regime type (democracy vs. autocracy) and electoral systems (majoritarian vs. proportional representation) on within-country income inequality. Beyond the inequality effects of these de jure political institutions, this paper finds robust evidence that de facto distribution of political power crucially matters to income inequality. Based on a panel database of 121 countries for the period from 1960 to 2007, the results consistently associate even distributions of political power across socio-economic groups with lower levels of income inequality. The scale of this effect hinges upon the proportionality of electoral systems. However, regime type and electoral system are not consistently associated with a signicant impact on income inequality.


Violent Democratizations and Scandinavian Exceptionalism

Author: David Andersen

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 19. October 2018

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Scholars increasingly look to Scandinavia for better formulas of sustainable democracy. One core feature of Scandinavian exceptionalism, they hold, is that the paths to democracy in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were relatively peaceful. As a precondition for pursuing this agenda, I conduct the first systematic, empirical scrutiny of whether Scandinavian democratization periods were in fact exceptionally peaceful. By combining Varieties of Democracy and Historical Varieties of Democracy data, I construct a new measure of democratization, based on multiple dimensions of democracy and protracted periods before and shortened periods after democratization events, and a new measure of violent anti-systemic movements. Statistical analyses for a global sample of countries from 1789 to 2017 show that there was indeed a Scandinavian exception of peaceful democratization, but only consistently so when we compare Scandinavian democratizations of competitive elections and suffrage with the rest of Europe before 1946. The results are robust to different specifications of democratization periods, regional diffusion of democratization that instruments for the domestic democratization effect, the sequence theory of liberalization followed by extension of participation, and using extant measures of the dependent and independent variables. I argue that future research needs to reinvestigate the origins of peaceful democratization in Scandinavia from late 18th to early 20th century.


On the Social Organization of Governments: Conceptualizing and Testing the Political Determinants of Health

Author: Andrew C. Patterson

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 18. September 2018

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A burgeoning research area asks whether political factors can affect population health. Risk of losing a forthcoming election, for instance, arguably motivates leaders in democracies to adopt policies that best promote health. However, less population health research considers more specific roles in democratic governments or other, unelected roles. To address these gaps, this study compares cross-national life expectancies and infant mortality rates across 167 countries according to political data drawn from the Varieties of Democracy Project. A series of regression models test whether population health is better in countries with 1) proportional and/or mixed-member electoral rules, 2) independence of the highest court from political interference, and 3) appointments of state administrators based on merit rather than nepotistic social ties. Subsequent models test, respectively, whether 4) deliberative consensus, 5) transparency / predictability of court behaviour, or 4) political corruption mediate relationships between political structures and population health. Findings most consistently suggest that meritocratic recruitment of state administrators may promote stronger life expectancy and infant health by curbing corruption. The independence of a country’s highest court from political interference also appears to promote population health, although this finding is most consistent with respect to infant mortality. Proportional and mixed-member electoral rules relate to these outcomes only when tested separately, while deliberative consensus is at best a modest mediator thereof. Findings altogether suggest population health may be traceable to institutional protocols that shape the roles of government actors. Further work is needed to corroborate this view.


Democracy and Trade Liberalisation

Author: Ashvinder Singh Pramjit Singh

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 17. September 2018

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In the 20thcentury, waves of democratisation and the concurrent rush to free trade worldwide prompted many scholars to research the link between democracy and trade liberalisation. Despite scholars agreeing that democratisation positively affects trade liberalisation, no consensus prevails on which specific aspect of democracy matters most and through which mechanism that it affects trade liberalisation. By building on Mayer’s (1984) application of the Median Voter Theorem, this dissertation argues that democratisation affects trade liberalisation by allowing the preferences of the owners of abundant factors to be represented in the decision/policy-making process. In other words, electoral democratic institutions mediate the representation of preferences. This argument is tested in two ways. First, by relying on a new dataset from the Varieties of Democracy project for the period 1974 to 2014 and using country-level panel data regression, preliminary analysis shows that electoral democracy matters most for trade liberalisation. Next, a Difference-in-Difference analysis finds that the extension of suffrage lowers tariffs and results in a more open trade policy for developing countries. These findings provide fresh support for the application of the Median Voter Theorem to the link between democratisation and trade liberalisation. 


Missionaries, Mechanisms, and Democracy

Authors: Kevin Angell, Jeffrey J. Harden

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 16. August 2018

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What causal pathways link Protestant missionaries to the spread of liberal democracy? Woodberry’s (2012) theoretical explanation includes three central mechanisms: the development of mass printing, the expansion of education and literacy, and the growth of civil society. However, his quantitative analyses of non-Western countries focus exclusively on the positive total effect of conversionary Protestants (CPs) on democracy. Here, we conduct a direct empirical evaluation of the mechanisms he proposes using causal mediation methods. Our results corroborate the positive total effect, but show limited support for its causal pathways. We find minimal evidence to suggest that CPs’ impact operated via mass printing or civil society. There is more support for education as a mediator, although at best it only accounted for a minority share of the total effect. We conclude that further theorizing about causal processes is necessary to strengthen the claim that Protestant missionaries contributed to democracy’s rise.


Democracy Misunderstood: Authoritarian Notions of Democracy around the Globe

Authors: Christian Welzel, Helen Kirsch

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 15. April 2018

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An intriguing observation consists in the fact that widespread support for democracy coexists in many countries with the persistent absence of democracy. Addressing this phenomenon, we show that in most places where it exists people understand democracy in ambiguous ways in which authoritarian notions mix into—and even overshadow—liberal notions, in spite of the contradiction between these two notions. In light of this contradiction, we present evidence suggesting that authoritarian notions of democracy question the authenticity of liberal ones when both are endorsed conjointly. Worse, the evidence further suggests that authoritarian notions even revert the meaning of support for democracy itself, indeed indicating support for autocracy. Arguably, this reversal in the meaning of support for democracy lends legitimacy to authoritarian rule, which helps to explain where it endures. Testing alternative explanations of authoritarian notions of democracy, we find that emancipative values are most influential, exerting a two-fold “enlightening” effect in (a) making people recognize the contradiction between liberal and authoritarian notions of democracy and (b) turning them against authoritarian notions.


Colonial Institutions and Democracy: Resisted Transitions from European Settler Oligarchies

Author: Jack Paine

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 14. April 2018

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What explains the emergence and evolution of political institutions under colonial rule? Existing research implies that European settlers engendered democracy by (1) establishing oligarchic representation and (2) later expanding the franchise. This paper rethinks the origins and evolution of colonial institutions by providing a new explanation for both sequencing steps focused on impediments  to democratizing oligarchies. First, creating representative institutions required European settlers to have a representative tradition on which to draw. This paper introduces new data on colonial legislatures from the 17th through 20th centuries and shows that early promotion of elected legislatures was mostly limited to British colonies—a metropole with a representative tradition. Second, extending class-based theories of democracy predicts perverse institutional evolution—resisted enfranchisement and contestation backsliding—because sizable European settler minorities usually composed an extractive landed class. Evidence on franchise size and on legislature disbandment from Africa, the British Caribbean, and Iberian America supports these implications.


Citizen Mobilization and Political Regime: a view from the electoral contests in Mexico and Russia (2011-2013)

Authors: Armando Chaguaceda, James G. M. D'angelo

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 13. March 2018

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This paper analyzes the protests that occurred in Mexico and Russia during the elections of 2011 and 2012. Starting from the political context of both countries, it describes the mobilizations, using contentious politics studies as a reference and a political process approach, while taking into account the various effects that reciprocal interaction between collective action and institutional policy had for both political regimes, given the different structures of opportunities and state capacities of both countries.

Five Political Regimes in Latin America, Internet Freedom and Mechanisms of Control

Authors: Iria Puyosa, Armando Chaguaceda

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 12. November 2017

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Since 2010, there has been a trend towards establishing internet control and securitization policies (Freedom House, 2016). The literature on the subject indicates that the mechanisms of internet control vary according to the type of political regimes. The objective of this work is to verify if the policies of control of internet in Latin America vary according to the type of prevailing political regime. For the study were selected five Latin American countries that are categorized as examples of different political regimes: Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba. For each case, the indicators related to freedom of expression on the internet are reported in accordance with the data provided by «Varieties of Democracy». «Freedom on the Net» categorizations are used as a complement. The results indicate that there is a correlation between political regime (measured by polyarchy index) and internet freedom. Indeed, the more autocratic the regime is, the more first-generation internet controls are observed, with censorship of contents and violations of users' rights. While in hybrid regimes second-generation controls are more commonly observed, which involve obstacles to access, without customary content blocking and network outages.


A Tale of Culture-Bound Regime Evolution: The Centennial Democratic Trend and Its Recent Reversal

Author: Christian Welzel

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 11. October 2017

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Using a new measure of “comprehensive democracy” derived from V-Dem (www.v-dem.net), my analysis traces the global democratic trend over the last 116 years, from 1900 till 2016, looking in particular at the centennial trend’s cultural zoning. Despite a burgeoning literature on resurgent authoritarianism, I find no evidence for a wholesale reversal of the centennial democratic trend, although indications for a decennial stagnation and a very recent downswing are undeniable. Whether this downswing will turn into a lasting erosion of democracy remains to be seen but seems unlikely in light of the fact that previous reverse waves have always only temporarily halted democracy’s long-term ascension. At the same time, democracy has been proceeding and continues to differentiate political regimes in a strongly culture-bound manner: high levels of democracy remain a distinctive feature of countries in which emancipative values have grown strong over the generations. By the same token, backsliding and autocratization are limited to cultures with under-developed emancipative values. In line with this finding, public support for democracy neither favors democratization, nor does it prevent autocratization in disjunction from emancipative values. On the contrary, public support for democracy shows such pro-democratic effects if—and only if—it co-exists in close association with emancipative values. The reason is that—in disconnect from emancipative values—support for democracy frequently reverts its meaning, indicating the exact opposite of what intuition suggests: namely, support for autocracy. In conclusion, the prospects for democracy are bleak where emancipative values remain weak.


Carrots or Sticks: The Choice and Impact of EU Democratic Sanctions and Aid

Authors: Paulina Pospieszna, Patrick M. Weber

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 10. October 2017

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Both the provision of democracy aid and the imposition of sanctions are tools to promote democracy. Yet, it is unclear under which conditions states choose to set positive or negative incentives. In order to answer which tool—democracy aid or democratic sanctions—is more effective, one has to analyse the actual form of the provision of aid. Sanctions and democracy aid can also be employed at the same time. The goal of this study is to determine their joint effect on democratization in recipient countries. We argue that sending civil society aid or democracy aid channeled through NGOs and the civil society when sanctions are in place, enhances the effectiveness of sanctions as a democracy promotion tool because the civil society can be empowered to introduce democratic changes in its country—so additionally to the top-down pressure created by sanctions, there is bottom-up pressure exerted by the civil society. Our results suggest that democratic sanctions are more likely to be successful if democracy aid bypasses the government in a target state. Conversely, other forms of aid provision tend to decrease the effectiveness of sanctions. In order to precisely explain the joint impact of positive and negative incentives on democratization, we employ a new comprehensive dataset on economic sanctions for the period between 1989 and 2015 which integrates and updates the Threats and Imposition of Economic Sanctions and the GIGA sanctions data sets, merged with disaggregated OECD aid data and V-Dem as well as PolityIV democracy scores.


Patterns of Late Colonialism and Democratization in Africa: Using V-Dem to Measure the Long Heritage of the Colonial State

Author: António Luís Dias

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 9. September 2017

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Between 1989 and 1995 the third (or fourth?) wave of democratization hit Sub-Saharan Africa, with mixed results. These different outcomes pose a challenge for most contemporary theories of democratization as they fail to explain this variation. So how can we explain democratization in this region? This paper will readdress this problem by re-introducing a variable that has not been fully explored: the late colonial period. During this period, that lasted from the 1930s through independence, colonial empires had to reform their rule, introducing elections with universal suffrage and local parliaments in some cases. We argue that this legacy of democratic experience in the absence of repression is a crucial factor determining a successful democratization by the end of the 20th century. Two different routes will be taken to test our hypothesis. First, we will sketch a brief historical comparison of different cases from the British and French colonial empire. Through this exercise we seek to understand if these differences did occur, how significant they were and what mechanisms might link them to a process that occurred almost three decades later. In a second moment we will use the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) database and see how it shows the differences during late colonialism and we will use it to test statistically our hypothesis.


What Were the Political Effects of Decolonization?

Authors: Alexander Lee, Jack Paine

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 8. August 2017

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Considerable research argues that European colonial rule profoundly in political and economic outcomes. One potential implication of this argument is that territories should exhibit different outcomes during and after colonial rule. We test this hypothesis for four outcomes - democracy, internal conflict, government revenues, and economic development - using unit fixed effects models. Democracy levels increased sharply in colonial autonomy years immediately prior to independence. However, conflict, revenue, and income levels exhibit no systematic differences before or after independence. The results are similar when taking into account varieties of colonial institutions and the endogenous timing of independence. Except for a novel result on the timing of democratic gains, the overall findings suggest that gaining independence was less politically consequential than heterogeneous long-term effects of colonial rule on institutions and social patterns.


Autocratic Legislatures and Party Institutionalization

Author: Matthew Charles Wilson

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 7. July 2017

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What explains the institutionalization of political parties in non-democratic settings?  Drawing on the work of scholars who portray institutions as a response to credible regime threats, I argue that institutional choice in non-democracies depends in large part on the extent to which the masses are mobilized.  In countries in which citizens posed little threat to state formation, regimes were significantly less likely to rely on party institutionalization to gain legitimacy—instead, they focused on building institutions that co-opted individual elites, which is accomplished in part through nonpartisan legislatures.  In contrast, the credibility of threats presented by mass groups prompted the emergence and strengthening of party-based rule, which did not necessarily connote democratization.  Using newly released data from the Varieties of Democracy Project (V-Dem) I evaluate the determinants of party institutionalization, showing that internal armed conflict is a positive predictor of greater party institutionalization in less democratic states.  The same is not true of the most intense conflicts, however, underscoring the difference between the threat versus the realization of large-scale revolution.  By focusing on mass opposition and party institutionalization, this study supports policymakers’ endeavors to better understand the relationship between power asymmetries, commitments, and institutions.

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The Long March: Deep Democracy in Cross-National Perspective

Authors: Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Adaner Usmani, Benjamin H. Bradlow

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 6 (3) Revised. March 2019

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Over the last several decades, dozens of dictatorships have become democracies. Yet while each has held free and fair elections, they have varied in the extent to which their citizens realize the ideal of self-rule. Why do some democracies distribute power to citizens while other democracies withhold it? Existing research is suggestive, but its implications are ambiguous. Cross-national studies have focused on democracy’s formal dimensions, while work on substantive democracy is case-based. We find that one of the most consistent and powerful explanations of substantive democratization is the length of unarmed pro-democratic mobilization prior to a transition. Through a case study of Brazil, we illustrate that these movements matter in three ways: first, because practices of self-organizing model and enable democratic reforms; second, because movement veterans use state office to deepen democracy; and third, because long movements yield civil societies with the capacity to demand the continuous deepening of democracy.


Electoral Democracy and Corruption: A Cross-National Study 

Author: Alexander Blums

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 5. June 2017

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This paper adds to the academic debate on if and how corruption levels vary with changing levels of democracy. I begin by positioning my work among existing academic research, identifying causal mechanisms for the relationship and addressing some of the concerns associated with defining and measuring corruption and democracy.  I then propose two hypotheses: (H1) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption levels in the short-term (institutional explanation) and (H2) that democracy levels affect perceived corruption in the long-term (cultural explanation). I control for other variables commonly cited in the literature, such as economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage. This is the first comparative research paper exploring the relationship between democracy and corruption to utilize the recently published “Varieties of Democracy v6.2” dataset, which contains high-quality data on historical democracy levels for most countries around the world. To test the hypotheses, I build 6 OLS regression models containing data on 173 countries, utilizing 1436 data points. Contrary to much of the academic literature, this study finds that when controlling for economic development, levels of Protestantism and colonial heritage, democracy levels remain a statistically significant predictor of corruption in both the short and long term. The results of this study suggest a need to re-visit previously popular short-term institutional explanations of corruption. The study also notes some interesting observations and identifies gaps in the literature where future research would be needed to develop a more holistic explanation of corruption.


Correlation of Democracy Indicators and Markets Returns 

Authors: Scott Axelrod, James Leitner

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users' Working Paper No. 4. December 2016

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We perform various experiments correlating past changes of social indicators about a country with future stock market returns for that country. The 169 social indicators we use, which go back as far as the year 1900, are available from the Varieties of Democracy Project. We use two sets of data for country-wide stock market returns: data compiled by Dimson, Marsh, and Staunton covers 17 countries going back to 1900, and data from the MSCI data analytics and index service covering 45 countries going back as far as 1970. We consider five and ten year time windows. This gives us four different “studies”: MSCI 10 year, DMS 10 year, MSCI 5 year, and DMS 5 year.

We find the striking result that good changes of the social indicators have a positive mean (averaged over studies) total correlation (correlation of change vectors indexed by country-year pairs) with future stock market returns in 157 out of 158 cases in which the indicator measures something good or bad for society. We obtain a result almost as strong when the correlation is aggregated differently using the separate country and year groupings. We perform statistical hypothesis testing to show that, even though the social indicators are not all independent, these result are exceedingly unlikely to be the result of random (white noise) stock market returns.

We also perform “positive linear regression” of stock market return on all 158 indicators, which means that the sign of the regression coefficient for an indicator is constrained to be positive or negative according to whether a positive change of the indicator is good or bad. The fraction of data explained by positive regression is shown to be extremely statistical significant. We calculate a confidence interval for the percentage of data genuinely explained by regression, not just by fitting to noise. The lower end of the confidence window for the four studies is 11%, 14%, 6%, and 9%.

We include a long appendix on the statistical theory of correlation and (unconstrained) regression. This provides background to the novel applications of hypothesis testing and confidence interval calculation in the body of the paper. 


Nonviolent Resistance and the Quality of Democracy 

Authors: Felix S. Bethke, Jonathan Pinckney 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 3. July 2016

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Previous research has shown that successful nonviolent resistance (NVR) campaigns are more likely to promote the growth of democratic political systems compared to violent revolutions. The decentralized organizational structure and pluralistic practices of nonviolent campaigns serve as a template for future political arrangements during and after the initial democratic transition. However, research to date has not disaggregated this finding to address the mechanisms and pathways that produce these effects on democratic quality. In this paper we address this gap by analyzing the effect of NVR on the quality of democracy for a sample of 101 regimes between 1945 and 2010, using an index of polyarchy and its sub-components: (1) elected executive, (2) free and fair elections, (3) freedom of expression, (4) associational autonomy, and (5) inclusive citizenship. Using local linear matching and differences-in- differences estimation, we find that initiating a democratic transition through NVR improves democratic quality after transition significantly and substantially relative to cases without this characteristic. Our analysis of the sub-components of polyarchy reveals that this positive effect comes about primarily due to improvements in freedom of expression, with no significant difference along the other dimensions of polyarchy.  



Democracies in Crisis: How Do Levels of Democracy Affect Economic Outcomes in Crises of the Developing World? 

Author: Dash Holland 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 2. June 2016

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This paper estimates how levels and changes of democracy affect economic outcomes around economic crises, using yearly data from the Varieties of Democracy project. I observe the different impacts on factors like the debt-to-GDP ratio, GDP growth, and the exchange rate to the US dollar. While my model finds statistically significant results for many of these factors, the overall impact of democracy is found to be small and appears to be specific to certain regions or specific economic crises rather than having a generalizable trend. I also discuss possible limitations to my findings. 


Democracy and State Capacity Revisited: An Investigation of Democracy’s Consequences for State Capacity 

Author: Lasse Egendal Leipziger 

University of Gothenburg, Varieties of Democracy Institute: Users Working Paper No. 1. June 2016

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Does democracy foster increased state capacity? An answer to this question has crucial implications for many countries that have democratized during the Third Wave of Democratization but demonstrate serious shortcomings in terms of state capacity. In this paper, I critically examine existing theoretical work on the topic, in particular the notion of J-shaped relationship, and subsequently develop three causal pathways through which democracy might enhance the administrative capacity of the state. Two hypotheses are derived expecting a) that a country’s level of democracy affects its administrative capacity, and b) that the duration of the democratic regime affects its administrative capacity. The hypotheses are subjected to empirical assessment trough a statistical, time-series cross-sectional analysis of 122 countries during the third wave. For this purpose, I use V-Dem data1 which is arguably better suited for the empirical assessment compared to existing indicators. The results from the empirical evaluation suggest that the contemporary level of democracy has no robust impact whereas the extent of experience with democracy appears to have a positive and substantively interesting effect. I conclude that democracy does advance state administrative capacity, but only when considered as a cumulative, historical phenomenon.